By Maria V. Snyder
Books in series: Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study
I will tell you right now, I did NOT finish the series. I devoured Poison Study, trudged through Magic Study, and then threw Fire Study against the wall, with many *face-palm-books* along the way. So if the fact that I didn't finish the series is not your cup of tea, feel free to ignore this post, and read this booklist by Steph Su where the Study books make every single one of her book lists.
Now, the format of this review will just be summary (from goodreads) then review for each book, then a final "series review".
Poison Study (Rating- 9.1)
A quick death
Or slow poison
Yelena has a choice – be executed for murder, or become food taster to the commander of Ixia. She leaps at the chance for survival, but her relief may be short-lived. Life in the palace is full of hazards and secrets. Wily and smart, Yelena must learn to identify poisons before they kill her, recognise whom she can trust and how to spy on those she can’t. And who is the mysterious Southern sorceress who can reach into her head?
When Yelena realises she had extraordinary magical powers of her own, she faces a whole new problem, for using magic in Ixia is punishable by death...
Review: My absolute favourite of the series by a long shot, Poison Study is everything all the blogs and reviews made it up to be. An interesting premise, smart plotting, great and engaging characters, plot twists, and excellent writing. Yelena is a complex character in the fact that she constantly struggles with figuring out what the heck others want from her, along with dealing with a troubled past. She's vulnerable and strong at the same time. I also loved her friends Ari and Janco, for those who've read the book, you know why they are amazing :). I liked the idea of her being the food taster and basically facing a possiblity of injury every day. The ending was amazing, fast paced and with the plot surprises and twists that made me keep flipping pages to find out what happens next, only to raise another question that is satisfyingly answered.
I definitely recommend you read this book, and even read it as a stand-alone. Warning though, there are some graphic scenes for more mature readers.
Magic Study (Rating- 7.8)
*SPOILERS AHEAD (what did you expect? It's a summary for a sequel!)*
You know your life is bad when you miss your days as a poison taster.
Completing her apprenticeship could prove deadly...With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic - or face death - Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician's Keep. But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Nor the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges - and Yelena catches his eye. Suddenly she is embroiled in battle of good against evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life...or be her downfall.
Review *Major SPOILERS*: It started out really good, with Yelena being "exiled" out of Ixia, and going to its neighboring nation of Sitia, where she has to learn to harness, use, and understand her newly found magic at Magicians' Keep.
Then...she meets her family, and her troubled brother Lief, gets into trouble, gets out of trouble, gets the best "master magician" to tutor her, learns she has a rare and speshul magic (soulfinder..really?), all while solving the mystery of a crazy man who is raping and killing girls. I'm sorry, but she becomes the type of character I just really dislike, the character like Bella who suddenly has the best magic EVAR, has the perfect lover, and basically all the Master Magicians listening to her amazing ideas (except for the stereotypical One who seems to hate her for no reason!).
Plus, along the way she makes the most powerful friends (like Moon Man) and has a horse who can go amazingly fast...whoa! I read this book while ago so I can't really recall any of her flaws except for her need for attention/doing-the-right-thing/being-amazing-all-by-herself, oh and she can't make fire.
I cannot deny that the plot is still gripping, and the writing is just as smooth, along with intersting and intriguing characters, and an awesome mystery, but it was just the way Yelena was written by Snyder that made me constantly dislike the fact that she is so darned perfect.
I would recommend this book either way, becuase I know that many many people do not have the same dislikes for perfect-ish characters.
Fire Study (Rating- 4) --Did Not Finish [I read a quarter of it]
Yelena's new role as Soulfinder has made the Sitian Council uneasy. Worried that her new powers will corrupt her, the Council debates her fate. Yelena, though is trying to keep Sitia and Ixia from going to war. In the middle of political wrangling, Yelena receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by Ferde, the Soulstealer who murdered eleven girls and has escaped from prison with Cahil Ixia’s help. Cahil believes if he joins with the new Daviian Clan, he will have enough support to regain the Ixian throne. Testing the limit of her skills, Yelena becomes embroiled in the desperate fight to stop Ferde and the Daviian Clan from siphoning enough power to unleash a Fire Warper on the world. That would be worst than war between the northern and southern lands. Especially since, of all the powers Yelena possesses, she couldn't set fire to a candle wick if her life depended on it. And there is more at stake than just her life.
Review: Okay, what is my reason for not being able to finish this book? Well, that one's easy. Yelena is too perfect, and building on the perfecting Yelena in Magic Study, she becomes even more powerful, and she gets to do everything her way all the while trying to get us to empathize with her with the excuse: she is putting her life in danger!! oh noes!!
It came to a point where I just didn't care about her (which isn't a very good thing for me when reading novels). It came to a point where everything she did would be the right thing, whether or nto she had support fromt he people in power...I mean she had Valek, her uber-horse, and Moon Man, right?! It just got annoying and too much Mary-Sueishness for me to handle (the perfect heroine/hero is a personal pet peeve) so I stopped reading it and don't regret it at all.
I can't recommend this to people because I couldn't finish it. :o
I apologize if I'm sounding harsh or anything, but this is, again, MY OWN OPINION, and thus, EXTREMELY BIASED. You can ignore it completely and try the series for yourself! In fact, I do recommend you try it.
Now for the Series Review:
The Study series by Maria V. Snyder starts out with a bang, tries to continue it but then falls into a sad pit of unlikable characters. The first book I would definitely recommend you all to read, it is a great fantasy novel with an excellent, well though out premise. Yelena is a flawed, likable character you want to root for. If you like it, read the second one, and if you like the way Yelena is portrayed, by all means continue. The writing is excellent, smooth without awkwardness or head-scratching things. The plot itself has lots of twists and turns, and the world-building of Ixia and Sitia by Snyder is really really phenomenal. It reminds me of the Hunger Games, in fact, which is an amazingly high compliment. If you don't mind the perfect heroine, this series would fit most people very well!
Recap of Ratings:
Poison Study (9.1) amazing, must read!!
Magic Study (7.8) kinda going downhill, excellent plot though!
Fire Study (4) did not finish, eek, unlikeable, super-amazing Yelena is not my cup of tea.
OVERALL SERIES RATING: 7.8